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The Power of Calmness with Bird’s Brenda Wang

The Mag’s “Power of…” series is a series of interviews that highlight our interviewee’s status as an industry leader. We speak to them about their experience, insight and the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In June, we speak to Bird’s Co-founder and CEO, Brenda Wang, about the power of calmness.

Our world today is fast paced, dynamic, unpredictable…anything but calm.

We’re busy. Our society expects us to achieve more, faster, better. We’re always on the go, ready to react to anything that comes our way. And when things don’t go as planned, we beat ourselves up.

This used to be me. Don’t get me wrong – I loved what I did, and as a high-energy person, I’ve always been able to handle many things. Before opening our meditation studio Bird, I had taken on multiple leadership positions at companies like Duty Free Shoppers, Gucci, Nike, as well as Harvey Nichols where I was the chief operating officer in charge of opening the first Harvey Nichols in Asia. In 2007, I launched my own consulting practice Brandxcel. While these experiences have given me a lot of satisfaction and knowledge, they were also high-stress environments that kept me on call, 24/7.

About seven years ago,
I took on more and more assignments for my practice and became really stressed out. At the same time, my daughter was suffering from depression. I was exhausted. A friend then recommended a holistic energy healing session to help me fill up my tank, and I gave it a go.
“When you’re in a place of calm, you’re able to gain clarity and focus on things that matter. ”
It didn’t resonate with me at first. I kept asking, “How does this work? How’s my energy?” I just couldn’t stop thinking. Yet the calmness of the space kept me coming back, and later I started attending meditation sessions. It was a gradual shift; I found it hard to sit still and stop thinking. But soon I discovered that meditation isn’t about not thinking; rather, it’s about being aware of, but not judging, our thoughts and feelings. It also trains our minds to focus on the present moment instead of the past or the future. I began to appreciate the benefits of a calm mind, and after three years of regular practice, I noticed how much my life has changed. Despite still doing what I love, I’m also living a more mindful and calm life.

Being calm doesn’t mean you’re so relaxed
that you aren’t getting anything done. It’s quite the contrary: when you’re in a place of calm, you’re able to gain clarity and focus on things that matter. If you get caught up with the things in life that you can’t control, what are you going to do other than feeling frustrated? When you’re calm, however, then you aren’t in a hurry to react; instead, you’re giving yourself the mental space to take a step back, observe and recognise what you can do, which is far more productive.

The ability to stay calm is especially important for leaders – and everyone is a leader in their own right – because good decisions hinge on mental clarity. As a business person I’ve seen how meditation can help us reach this clarity, which is what inspired me and my business partner to set up a studio for the dynamic Taikoo Place office community, within a year of meeting each other at a meditation session in 2018. We call it Bird. Birds are always so focused on the present moment – whether they’re migrating to their destinations or simply soaring in the sky, they’re never lost. In mindfulness we’re trying to cultivate the same focus.

The sense of calmness turned out to be so vital when we launched the studio. No one could have predicted the events that unfolded in Hong Kong over the past year. Still, construction began last November, with the plan to open this March. Then came COVID-19 and we had to pause our work and delay our opening due to social distancing restrictions. There were a lot of challenges, but we constantly reminded ourselves to stay calm and focus on what we could do to adjust, mitigate the risk, remobilise…and now we’re open, after all!
Those who are unfamiliar with meditation may find it intimidating to sit for a long time doing nothing, or they may think it’s a religious practice – both are misconceptions. Our sessions are very easy to understand; they’re simply tools to explore mindfulness in different ways, such as by focusing on your breath, a specific object, your body’s sensations and sounds. Even a 30-minute session during your lunch hour is beneficial.

Have you ever
entered an office with a manic atmosphere and immediately felt your heart rate increase? We’re subconsciously affected by the energy around us, whether it’s from our environment or other people. This is why we incorporated design elements like plants and circadian lighting to mimic nature, as well as technology such as RESET monitors to ensure good indoor air quality, to create a sanctuary that promotes wellbeing.

There’s more way than one
to practise calmness. For me, aside from meditation, reading, doing Pilates and spending time with my son and daughter (who’s been doing very well on her recovery thanks to mindfulness practices) also help me stay calm. I hope I can help to open the door to a more conscious life for everyone, as mindfulness is truly one of the most helpful skills to master in our times.

In times of stress, we can find support in human connections. Read about the Power of Connection with Facebook’s Jayne Leung.

Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.
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